Retired Seniors in the United States Not Covered by Biden’s Vaccination Plan | Washington
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s new COVID-19 plan will require vaccines for 100 million American workers, but one group was clearly absent from this week’s announcement: the elderly. They are also the most likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus – by far.
Older retirees are much more accepting of vaccines than their working-age counterparts. Their full vaccination rate is around 82%, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because they are susceptible to serious illness, even relatively few unvaccinated elderly people mean more deaths – and more overcrowded hospitals – than what would happen in a larger pool of young adults.
About 75 million people in the United States are 60 and older. Recently, about four-fifths of COVID-19 deaths in the country have occurred in this population.
Around the world, the rapidly spreading delta variant has left unvaccinated elderly people at risk. Compared to the UK, the US’s underperformance on immunization is one of the reasons it suffered about twice as many deaths per capita in this outbreak.
Even before the pandemic, older people were largely out of the workforce – and therefore out of reach of employment mandates. Millions more have retired since March 2020.
Lawrence Gostin, professor of global health law at Georgetown University, said legal options to make vaccination of seniors mandatory are limited. Instead, he said, the government may have to rely on incentives or awareness.
“For the vast majority of unvaccinated older people, the problem is not skepticism or reluctance to vaccinate,” he said. “It’s much more a question of access. Whether they’re homebound, depressed, or alone means they may not be able to negotiate how to find a vaccine. “
Counterintuitively, younger older people showed a greater appetite for vaccines than their older peers. Initially, the opposite was true, as governments sent vaccination teams to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Recently the numbers have shifted, reinforcing the idea that some elderly residents – especially those who don’t live in structured lifestyles – are simply having trouble navigating the system.
Asked about the administration’s plan for the elderly, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on Friday that the United States had made “good progress” in vaccinating a majority of older Americans, but “we want to get closer to the more than 100% possible “.
He also said the government will continue to reach the elderly through the COVID-19 Community Corps, a program put in place by the Department of Health and Human Services to address vaccine reluctance.
“The vast network of community organizations, which includes doctors, nurses, religious leaders and other community organizations, has been absolutely essential in doing this outreach, and we will continue to do so in the months to come,” Murthy said.
One way to protect the elderly is to require that healthcare workers – with whom they are likely to interact – be vaccinated, said Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. Biden’s move on Thursday required vaccines for around 17 million medical workers.
Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said a “carrot approach” may be better for the elderly. He said some might also be motivated to get vaccinated if private health insurance premiums for the unvaccinated increase, although many rely primarily on federal health insurance.
Gostin of Georgetown said some private businesses popular with seniors – including bingo halls – may require vaccination records as a condition of entry, a strategy already used at some restaurants.
“They are the most vulnerable,” Gostin said, “and the unvaccinated elderly are at great risk. “
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